UPDATE: On January 14, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker vetoed An Act Creating a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth (S.2995). Governor Baker issued a five-page letter to the legislature detailing his reasons for vetoing the bill. Chief among the reasons for the veto was insufficient time for the governor to make amendments to the bill and send it back to the legislature. In his statement, Governor Baker, while expressing support for the efforts to reduce emissions and fight climate change, outlined concerns about the potential negative economic impacts of the bill, the barriers that may arise to constructing affordable housing under the strict environmental building standards of the bill, and the bill's focus on sector-specific emissions targets rather than emission reductions on a state-wide level only. The governor's statement also noted that the bill did not adequately consider how Massachusetts will work with other states in the effort to combat climate change, and did not provide enough funding mechanisms to make the environmental justice provisions meaningful. In light of the veto, some Massachusetts legislators have signaled their intent to refile the bill. Day Pitney will continue to track and report on the outcome of this important legislation.
Despite the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions, all the New England states held legislative sessions in 2020. Most recently, major climate change legislation affecting the energy industry, which was developed in Massachusetts throughout 2020, was enacted in early 2021 and awaits the governor's signature. In its efforts, Massachusetts joined Vermont in passing legislation during 2020, establishing aggressive climate change goals and policies. We report on these developments, as well as other noteworthy New England energy-related legislation, below.
On January 4, 2021, after months of negotiations to reconcile competing Senate and House bills, the Massachusetts Legislature agreed to An Act Creating a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth (S.2995), which is available here. The act is a major piece of climate change legislation further committing Massachusetts to a clean energy future, with the provision of pathways to get there. Highlights of the act include the following:
Noteworthy energy-related developments in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont are discussed briefly below.
The Connecticut General Assembly adjourned in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reconvening in certain "special sessions" to consider legislation regarding specific issues. One such special session was convened in late September/early October, when the General Assembly considered and passed an energy-related bill which the governor promptly signed: An Act Concerning Emergency Response by Electric Distribution Companies, the Regulation of Other Public Utilities and Nexus Provisions for Certain Disaster-Related or Emergency-Related Work Performed in the State (Public Act No. 20-5). This legislation, accessible here, makes various changes to the state's Public Utilities Regulatory Agency (PURA) procedures relating to electric distribution companies (EDCs). Highlights of the act include the following:
The Maine Legislature adjourned its Second Regular Session of the 129th Legislature on March 17, 2020, due to COVID-19. Prior to adjournment, the following bills of interest were passed and signed into law:
The New Hampshire General Court was in the second year of its biennium when legislative activity was suspended from mid-March to mid-June due to COVID-19. The following bills were passed and signed into law in 2020:
The Rhode Island General Assembly began its session on January 7, 2020. The legislative session was subsequently affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and was suspended from March 17 through June 17, 2020. While no energy or climate legislation passed in Rhode Island during 2020, Governor Gina M. Raimondo signed an executive order on January 17, 2020, regarding renewable energy: Advancing a 100% Renewable Energy Future for Rhode Island by 2030 (Executive Order 20-01). This order, accessible here, directs the State Office of Energy Resources to develop policy and programmatic pathways to meet 100 percent of the state's electricity demand with renewable energy sources by 2030.
As noted above, Vermont enacted comprehensive legislation to address climate change. The Vermont Legislature convened its session on January 7, 2020, and adjourned on September 25, 2020. Prior to adjournment, the following pieces of energy-related legislation were enacted into law:
The state legislatures for each of the New England states are already at work, having convened their next sessions in 2021, and may consider additional energy legislative initiatives in such areas as climate change, energy storage, reliability and more. Day Pitney will continue to monitor energy-related legislative developments in New England throughout 2021. Please do not hesitate to contact any of the attorneys listed in the sidebar with any questions.
For more Day Pitney alerts and articles related to the impact of COVID-19, as well as information from other reliable sources, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.
COVID-19 DISCLAIMER: As you are aware, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, things are changing quickly and the effect, enforceability and interpretation of laws may be affected by future events. The material set forth in this document is not an unequivocal statement of law, but instead represents our best interpretation of where things stand as of the date of first publication. We have not attempted to address the potential impacts of all local, state and federal orders that may have been issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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